Friday, December 01, 2006

Immigrants and crime

One of the key components of eliminationist rhetoric is the demonization of the target group by associating it with crime and violence. It was a staple of both Nativist and lynching-era rhetoric against immigrants and blacks. And it continues today in the debate over Latino immigration.

Probably no one this side of Tom Tancredo has been more assiduous in associating illegal immigrants with crime than Rep. Steve King, the far-right Republican from Iowa. The Carpetbagger Report points out that King is now claiming that illegal immigrants kill 12 Americans daily:
Twelve Americans are murdered every day by illegal aliens, according to statistics released by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. That's 21,900 since Sept. 11, 2001.

This news was heralded by World Net Daily, which ran with this nugget of "data" to further extrapolate the incendiary charge that the government has been releasing "terror threat" immigrants into the general population.

Where did this "data" come from?

Steve King's ass, apparently.

It first appears in one of his patented anti-immigrant screeds at his House Web site:
What would that May 1st look like without illegal immigration? There would be no one to smuggle across our southern border the heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines that plague the United States, reducing the U.S. supply of meth that day by 80%. The lives of 12 U.S. citizens would be saved who otherwise die a violent death at the hands of murderous illegal aliens each day. Another 13 Americans would survive who are otherwise killed each day by uninsured drunk driving illegals. Our hospital emergency rooms would not be flooded with everything from gunshot wounds, to anchor babies, to imported diseases to hangnails, giving American citizens the day off from standing in line behind illegals. Eight American children would not suffer the horror as a victim of a sex crime.

Funny thing about this "data": A year ago, King was claiming that the number was twenty-five Americans killed daily by illegal immigrants. And that figure is what a number of King's fellow nativists still like to bandy about.

Statistically speaking, of course, there is a huge difference between 12 and 25 murders daily. So which is it? Well, probably neither.

Colorado Media Matters reports that King cooked up the original "25 per day" figure by misreading government data:
But rather than asserting that the GAO reported this figure, King claimed in May to have "extrapolate[d]" it from a GAO study he requested that, he said, showed that 28 percent of inmates in federal, state, and local prisons and jails are "criminal aliens."

There is no GAO study reporting that 25 Americans per day are killed by illegal immigrants. Moreover, Colorado Media Matters has reviewed GAO reports addressed to King as well as figures released by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and has found no support for his assertion that 28 percent of inmates in all prisons and jails are criminal aliens.

Indeed, the real numbers are under 7 percent:
However, data from the BJS suggest that the percentage of prisoners who are criminal aliens, at least at the federal and state levels, is far lower than King claimed. According to the BJS, 6.4 percent of all state and federal inmates at midyear 2005 were "noncitizens" -- not just illegal immigrants -- down from 6.5 percent in 2004, 6.6 percent in 2003, and 6.9 percent in 2002.

Even Captain Ed was able to sniff out that King's claims are utterly bogus.

But that never stopped a Republican demagogue before.

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